Sunday, April 15, 2007

Nurse Valerie Brent

Valerie Brent worked as a nurse in Craig-y-nos from 1946-48.

(extract from interview)

“The matron took me in although I was too young ( I was only 15 years of age and four months) because I had been left an orphan .
“ My mother had died and I was the youngest of 12 children.

“Well, I was put to work in the Glass Conservatory with the very young children, aged from six months to 9 years. I think there would have been around 100 children in Craig-y-nos at that time.

I remember seeing people walking around the grounds wearing placards around their necks saying:”Silence. No talking” and I asked another nurse what on earth was going on.
She said it was all part of the treatment. It was to rest their lungs.”

She says the regime was very strict. “I threw myself into nursing. I got paid just over £3 a month.

“We had to eat 4,500 calories a day. Sister would say:”No food, no ward.” We had to eat a high calorie diet in order to protect ourselves against TB.

The regime was fresh air, rest and good food.

She recalls the winter 1947 when the hospital was snowed in for two weeks.

“I used to go and help them fill up the hot water bottles for the boys on the balcony.

“The children would be like little balls of fire buried at the bottom of their beds. We had to pull them up for the fresh air. It seemed to me that it was so cruel. But I was very young and that was the treatment.”

In the mornings it would take two nurses to lift the snow covered tarpaulins off the bed and throw it over the balcony.

Nothing had to be kept in the lockers which would deter children from eating their proper food.
After each meal they would get treats and the “sweetie tin” would be passed around.

As for visiting once a month she says the children “would go crazy.

There were lots of rules and regulations. “For example,
once relatives had passed over a certain mark in the corridor they were not allowed to take anything back out of the hospital.”

She recalls the notorious gastric lavages:
“You had to watch your fingers because the children would bite you.”

After she had been there for two years Dr Huppert took her aside and suggested she needed to gain more nursing experience so she left Craig-y-nos to pursue her career elsewhere.

Valerie has self- published a book on her nursing experiences called: “Life isn’t all kiwi and oranges”. (Published by Lifestory Services, price £9.99)

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